Megrahi group writes to MacAskill

Calls for a public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing have continued after "serious formal allegations" relating to the conduct of the investigation were laid before the Justice Secretary.

Holyrood's Justice Committee once again continued the long-running petition by the Justice For Megrahi (JFM) group calling for an independent inquiry into the 2001 Kamp van Zeist conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

Convener Christine Grahame said: "A letter of complaint has been sent to the Cabinet Secretary lodging serious formal allegations relating to the conduct of the investigation and the trial.

"That has been given 30 days grace to be answered by the Cabinet Secretary and then it will be public. I think we would like to see the Cabinet Secretary`s response before we decide to do anything."

Despite initial objections by Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, who suggested that formal routes of appeal against the conviction remain open, the committee agreed to continue the petition.

Ms Grahame added: "I accept what is said about a court case being one way forward, but there is a possibility under the Inquiries Act for the Government to conduct an inquiry into something wholly within its remit. Well, the operation of the police and the Crown Office is wholly within the remit of the Scottish Government. So, there are certain powers that the Government has, whether or not they are used."

JFM said they have given Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill until October 13 to respond to their letter of complaint before they go public with the allegations. In a submission to the committee, sent shortly after the complaint was lodged, JFM said: "Serious question marks (have been) raised concerning the quality of forensic evidence relating to the shard of PCB alleged by the Crown to have been part of a triggering device for a bomb.

"It would now appear that expert evidence provided to the court by representatives of the Royal Armament and Research Establishment was deeply flawed and at least one of the expert witnesses may well have perjured himself."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The issues being raised in relation to the conviction itself must be a matter for a court of law. Mr Al-Megrahi was convicted in a court of law, his conviction was upheld on appeal and that is the only appropriate place for his guilt or innocence to be determined.

"As was made clear by the Cabinet Secretary in his statement to the Scottish Parliament in February this year, it remains open for relatives of Mr Al-Megrahi to ask the SCCRC (Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission) to refer the case to the Appeal Court again on a posthumous basis, which ministers would be entirely comfortable with."